Noisy Classes

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18 thoughts on “Noisy Classes”

  1. This is great advice that I needed right now. It is nice to be reminded of the small stuff that makes a big difference in our presentation of the method. I’m going to introduce the jGR and begin implementing jGR grades this week. But what about the kids that just don’t care? The ones that aren’t bothering anyone but are not contributing (i.e. trying to sleep) either. Do you see this as a behavioral issue?

  2. This introducing of jGR to them this week is perfectly timed to address those kids who don’t care. Make it clear in a kind way that you are now forced by the national standards to make a change.

    The change requires you to grade in a different way. Students (who are usually expert at knowing exactly where the line is between pass and fail or even a certain grade that they want), are now going to be put in a different position – they will now have to SHOW UP AS YOU REQUEST OR FAIL.

    It’s the Show Up or Fail Policy. jGR has fangs and ther ain’t no two ways about it. And Andrea, don’t mess around with them. Read the rubric, make a big ass poster, and constantly refer to it during class for the first two weeks of this launch.

    They won’t get it right away because it all sounds like blah-blah-blah-blah to them in what has become a very unfortunate archetype of what a teacher is, one light years away from many of the teachers I know in this group like Piazza and Maust and Patrick and I could just go on and on naming names of my heroes.

    As John says, we are not clowns, and we are not blah-blah-blah-blah people and we are not TV sets to fall asleep in front of.

    And why is this? Because, as I said elsewhere here tonite in a comment, jGR doesn’t just have teeth in it, it has fangs. And where will those fangs bite? Into the sorry ass kids who think that they have you figured out.

    You said above:

    …I’m going to introduce the jGR and begin implementing jGR grades this week….

    Good, but if you now don’t IMPLEMENT it fairly and with no wavering or fear and with consistency across the board, then it won’t work, plain and simple.

    We can do this, but the game we are playing is not for the fainthearted, as Jennifer said here tonite as well.

  3. I’d like some opinions here on my story experience in my Advanced class (3rd & 4th year Chinese). We are working on some terms about kids. I finally put my brave boots on and only prepared the problem to resolve and the first two lines of the story: A kid has no brothers and sisters. But would like to have some. My students came up with the details including that the kid’s dad has two families so he has never met him. Then the kid goes to Kazakstan and meets Borat who has 80 kids including 79 daughters and 1 son. He gives the kid a girl to be his sister and they go to Canada where they meet PSY (a celebrity the kids know but I don’t). The kid asks who his children are and PSY says, “you are my son.” Father and son are reunited and then the bell rang.
    The process seemed right with lots of story asking. The new terms were used over and over which was great, and everybody seemed very involved. It’s just that the story was pretty weird. So am I doing this the right way? Tomorrow we will work on reading.

      1. That is so funny because I hated that movie! But I hated Ironman, too, and everybody else liked it. Honestly, I can’t believe these teenagers were even allowed to see Borat but I am, like, 30 years older than them so what do I know!

        1. I LOVED Borat! It fits my sense of humor though. I’ve always been the type that got a kick out of “messing with people” or messing with their heads, and that’s all he did in that movie. I do find it surprising that they were allowed to see it, too. But in 2012, I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising. I teach at a middle school and I have 12 and 13 year olds who are allowed to stay home because they were up all night playing Call of Duty (an extremely violent videogame, lots of shooting). The enabled generation, I guess.

  4. Tamula if it was way weird – weirder than stories even – it was because you weren’t following a script. More things were possible and there was a greater danger of exploding like fireworks going all over the sky in not having a script but you made it through and that speaks volumes about your talent at this after just a short period of exposure to it.

    The script is there to keep it narrow. See, the scripts function to make sure that every single statement/question you say has a target structure in it. They do that well and it is why I prefer stories to PQA and generalized discussion right now – I feel safer with a story script than I do when I am just hanging out with the kids doing PQA.

    Remember, we teach target structures, not stories. The rest of the words in the story, it is assumed but it never really happens that way, had ostensibly been acquired before the story and so the kids then, it is assumed, would get the story all effortlessly. That is the design and why it works.

    My suspicion is that you didn’t have that design going in that story. Not that any of us do, but I say it to make a point: I would bet that less of your kids – certainly not the whole class – now actually know those structures – as in “were actually acquired” – than you may think. I suspect that your superstars left the others in the dust and the slower processors came up a bit short on the story. Why do I guess that?

    Because I am the original “get-carried-away-by-the-superstars” teacher. I did it for about ten years and I have only been doing the method twelve years. I just didn’t have the check for all kids’ understanding piece. Only when Von approached me this summer did I fully get it – he told me that the story I taught at NTPRS was for him at 99% comprehension level – which is the entire point.

    And I achieved that with the entire group I was teaching – it was visible and agreed on and a real breakthrough for me (see link below on that breakthrough event for me). In sessions at conferences in the past I didn’t have the Checking for Understanding piece and I never was able to reach my full audience, and they were interested teachers.

    So it may have been a weird story, but I suspect it was the creation of around only five kids and so I suggest – and I am open to being totally wrong on this – that you may want to get a stronger handle on

    SLOW (all of us always go too fast so nothing new there)
    Staying in Bounds (hard to do when you worked from such a bare bones starting point)
    Checking for Understanding (as per the below)

    By the way, it takes real talent to do what you did. For me too often it would lead the train into the sand.

    And it wasn’t weird to them! Great stuff, it sounds like to me. Just go with it, right? As long as all the kids who are showing up are understanding it. (The rest are now flunking due to jGR, right?) That is the key – that you get all of the kids understanding at the very least at 80% comprehension, as indicated by the Quick Quiz that you gave at the end of class.

    If your kids who want to understand get it the way you made it happen in that story, then this is just another example of how we all pick and choose how we do this method. There is no one way to do it, I keep saying. What works for me doesn’t work for skip the PQA freak, who won’t start stories until as late as January, and on and on throughout our whole group.

  5. Thanks so much, Ben, for taking so much time to advise on this. I have been writing scripts for the Chinese 1 and 2 students but on this one I wasn’t even sure where I wanted to go with the terms. I can say that my 3rd year kids were pretty involved in the process and they are the ones I worry about the most but I will definitely spend tomorrow to work with the story again, have actors play it through, ask questions for comprehension, and run the comp check quiz that one of the kids wrote but we didn’t get to.

    In thinking about your advice, I think I need to plan out my vocab sets a little better and that might be part of the lack of direction on my part. The terms were children, son, daughter, and a one word term for brothers & sisters. No verbs or action terms which would have helped create a better spine for a story. I am a little desperate at this point to fill in all the holes in my level 4 kids’ vocab before they go off for college placement tests. I noticed in Matava’s scripts she doesn’t choose sets of words that are directly related so I’ll study those a little more.
    Thanks again for the coaching. It is truly invaluable!

  6. Chill on the 4’s. I’m just saying that from my intuition. This sentence right here made my socks roll up and down, and I’m not wearing socks:

    …I am a little desperate at this point to fill in all the holes in my level 4 kids’ vocab before they go off for college placement tests….

    That sounds like the old moi, the AP French teacher. Why are you desperate about that? They just started with stories this year! But, again, why are you desperate?

    This is from Eleanor Roosevelt, and it applies here:

    …do what you feel in your heart to be right; for you’ll be criticized anyway….

    College professors LOVE to complain about how inadequately kids are prepared for college. Hell, in this case I’d let ’em. You don’t owe anybody anything and you know it.

    1. I would add that a lot of damage is done in the name of “preparing” students for some horrible teachers. I would respond with this: if you knew that a famine was on its way, would you prepare your family by depriving them of food, so they’ll be “used to it”, or would you rather give them everything good and nourishing you possibly could so they would have the strength to weather the bad times? When put in these terms, the choice couldn’t be clearer. This bit of wisdom is from my mother, by the way, a master teacher, and a pretty damn good mother.

      1. Damn boy now you went and made me use the term three times in one night where I try to use it no more than once a week. I just hope a certain teacher in Maine is not reading this.

        OK here goes – John, the feasting image is very very badass. What can I say, right? And your mother sounds, well, just badass as a mother and a teacher. It’s just a badass night is what it is. Must be a full moon or some kind of badass astrological thing going on.

        I waited all those years, 24 of them, to meet (the original Dr. Badass) Susie Gross – and it was worth it. Because now my teaching, your mother, all of this change, it’s just ___________ (fill in the blank with the correct form of the adjective).

  7. John, that is a fantastic bit of wisdom from your mom. Thanks for passing it on.
    There is a college Chinese professor at Princeton who is really famous. He once said that all high school Chinese teachers are just a bunch of housewives playing around at teaching Chinese. How do you like that for arrogance!
    I bet your mom was a much better teacher than him.

    1. The sad thing about that professor, is that he is simply saying what many many professors think, or are trained to think. To them, we’re just a bunch of babysitters (or worse, stay at home moms!). This also brings out the traditional alignment of male/power/professor/ creator of curriculum vs. female/schoolteacher/lack of power/ passive implementer of top-down curriculum. Many of our struggles are due to this.

  8. I thought I had a brainy idea today when I decided to consider giving input as “feeding” the students so that they could then perform (output). But John’s mother beat me to it. I think undernourished students explain why so many are unable to put into practice things which they “learned” years ago. I’m talking on the net to another American teacher here in France (there are now at least two of us!) who is trying to use TPRS and whose students have been complaining that her structures were too easy. I explained to her that when I was examining students for a two year post-baccalaureate degree, I automatically gave two or even three bonus points to anyone who consistently used -s with third person singular verbs in the present tense. They “learn” this in their first trimester of English, eight or nine years down the road for most of them, yet very very few of them acquire it. Those who have acquired it are obviously well-nourished. But when I questioned them about how they had learned to speak English, it almost always turned out that most of their calories came from snacking outside of classroom meals.

  9. On the Blah blah blah issue, part of this is that we really need to be patient with students’ learning curves. They have a lifetime of blah blah archetypal bad teachers to get over. For many of my kids, kids who want to do well, it has taken them two and a half weeks simply to realize that the poster on my wall gives them SPECIFIC guidelines of how to do better, in spite of my daily emphasis and enforcement of the rules. This, in combination with the JGR, is really what’s going to teach them about our expectations, and that it’s not about “figuring out” what will make a teacher “like” them. It’s not a mystery, it’s right on the wall. But that’s not how they have been taught. This is why we should put all content on hold for the first month. It takes a long time for this to sink in. They’re waiting for the trick, the bait and switch, the impossible test that everyone bombs in spite of staying up all night preparing. They rightly don’t trust us at the beginning. Now that I’ve given a JGR and an easy easy true/false quiz, they’re starting to trust me, to be comfortable with the class, knowing that it’s about playing the game, and the rules are clearly posted on the wall. What a concept! Clarity and accountability. This is my definition of rigor.

    1. This was a great post and a lot of great comments, too! Great reminders. I’m having a great time in my first real TPRS year. I’m just starting to get some students who had A+’s in the past now getting B’s and C’s with the jGR in place. At my school, that’s like failing as far as those kids are concerned. It’s true: they’re dense. The quickest child academically doesn’t get the implications of his interrupting discussion throughout class until he gets an F on the Interpersonal Communication grade.

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